Nairobi, Kenya. CC0 Creative Commons

With the Same Eyes

In Nairobi, over one hundred people–from the African countries where the movement of CL is present–met with Julián Carrón to renew together the road of that life-changing, winning attraction.
Paolo Sanna

“Why are you all here? Why are you here?” This is the question asked by Archbishop Alain Paul Lebeaupin, Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya, during the opening Mass of the Assembly of CL Responsibles in Africa, an event gathering over 100 people from 14 countries of the continent in Nairobi, from October 21st to 23rd. In some of these countries, such as Burundi and Mozambique, the Movement is very young, while in others, such as Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya, it has been present for decades. “Why are we here?” repeated Fr. Julián Carrón during the introduction, from the stage of the meeting hall of the Dimesse Centre Institute. Those who ask this of us, like the Nuncio, are true friends, said Carrón, because a real friend provokes you to ask yourself the reasons for what you do, when instead we are badly tempted to take everything for granted.

“What do you hold dearest?” asked Carrón, turning the question around, because the answer is the same. It is the answer suggested by a page of the Gospel of Luke: “... do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” It is true: “Do not rejoice because of your ‘missionary successes,’ but because you have been chosen, chosen to have the same eyes with which Jesus looks at people,” commented Fr. Carrón. It is the only reason we are here: because of this preference of the Mystery.

Friday evening the first assembly began with the song, “È Bella La Strada”–“The Road is Beautiful.” Each person thought of the road that brought her or him to Nairobi, all the difficulties, all the challenges and the steps of a journey made together. The contributions began: “How can I live without losing myself?” asked Bright, a Ugandan university student. “I feel alone in my work,” said Anna, from Congo, “What can help me?” Mirelle, from Cameroon, said, “I am very provoked by the difficult situation of the orphanage I work in, and by the political situation of the country....”

Comparing everything. Carrón responded by recounting his experience. “I fell in love with the Movement because it gave me the instrument for judging. Even before the encounter with the Movement, I knew what the heart was, but nobody had told me that it was the instrument for judging, for comparing everything that happens with the synthetic point of the needs of my heart.” This is the origin and the source of the dignity of the person, continued Carrón. This enables one not to lose oneself; judging is recognizing whether the events that happen correspond to the desire of the heart.

As we left the hall, there were many familiar faces, and others completely new. Only a few words were needed to renew a dialogue started years before. I ended up sharing a table with Fr. Valerio, of the Fraternity of Saint Charles Borromeo, who has been in Kenya for 25 years; Fr. Stefano, a Capuchin brother and surgeon who has been in Madagascar for 30 years, and Henos and Wondwo, two young friends from Ethiopia. We talked about what we are doing, without shifting our focus from what Carrón had just said.

The next morning, the assembly started again and the questions were even more pressing, provoked by daily experience, by the confusion that seems to impose itself in life, by difficulties at work, by a certain tiredness in relationships–even the most important ones with wives, husbands, and children. Carrón listened, and did not seem concerned about responding right away, but about accompanying us in a true journey of knowledge. “What can overcome the confusion that surrounds the present situation? The victory over confusion is an attraction. How can we help each other so that this attraction endures in the face of every situation and problem?” Each of us can remember the date, the day when, for the first time, we were won over by the attraction of the encounter with Christ. It is the Christian event. We are together to help each other continually acknowledge that winning attraction, so that no confusion may overcome it. The only rule is to be faithful to this companionship.

During a brief coffee break, I met Anna and Samuele. Just a few months before, Anna had agreed to work in Brazzaville, Congo. It had been a difficult experience, with a boss who has little interest in the activities of the department she works in, in an atmosphere of indifference. She felt completely alone, and yet aware that it was a challenge worth accepting. Samuele, an agronomist, works for an AVSI project in Burundi. His wife and one-month-old son Giacomo will join him for Christmas in Kayanza, 90 miles north of the capital of Bujumbura. His happiness because of this adventure is visible.

In all circumstances. When we resumed, Francis from Nigeria spoke again, asking Fr. Carrón for the secret of recognizing the Mystery in all circumstances. But the priest responded with a series of questions: “What struck you today? Why?” “The fact that what I heard clarified a difficulty I’m experiencing,” responded the Nigerian.“This is the newness that Christianity introduces,” said Carrón: a light, a modality for facing problems in a way that enables us to leave the confusion. It is not a problem related to culture, but to the very nature of a Christianity not reduced to rules. John and Andrew belonged to the Jewish culture, but Christ did not “prepare” them for the encounter with Him. He said to them, “Come and see.”

“We are simply asked to live what we have encountered,” added Carrón.

The Assembly of Responsibles closed with announcements–nothing organizational; it is a life. Thus Rose, responsible for the Fraternity of CL for Africa, asked Fr. Carrón to speak again about the meaning of the fundamental gestures that mark the journey of the Movement: School of Community, the Fraternity, and charitable work. “The road is beautiful for those who walk,” as the song tells us. We left the hall with a clearer awareness of the journey and with a greater desire to travel the road together.